First draft yielded some gems
Monday recalls being selected first overall in 1965
Rick Monday knows he will always be an historical figure of sorts. After all, he was the first player chosen in Major League Baseball's first amateur draft in 1965.
But Monday, after 40 years, still doesn't view himself as historical. In fact, he seems to look at himself as more of an answer to a trivia question than anything else after the Kansas City A's made him the top pick out of Arizona State.
"I just happened to be there," Monday said. "It had nothing to do with timing or anything like that. It was a new system and no one knew what was going to happen. I had some attorneys pushing me, telling me what Major League Baseball was trying to do [with the draft] was wrong and that we would be able to contest it. They said the case could be heard in two or three years and I told them that in two or three years I hoped to be at the big-league level.
"Nobody knew what was going on. No one knew how it was going to unfold or the significance of it. We knew the draft was coming into being and there were three or four organizations talking with me, saying that if Kansas City didn't draft me they would. No one really knew how it would be handled. I didn't have to sit down and ponder the question anyway because we were playing in the College World Series."
Monday wouldn't say which other teams had expressed an interest in him. He and his mother had a meeting with A's owner Charlie Finley, during which it became obvious what course of action would be taken. Monday said he couldn't be happier with the way things turned out.
"If you look at it from a broad picture, it was the perfect opportunity for me in a lot of ways," Monday said. "The biggest one was because the Kansas City A's were, at that time, a young team. Finley had been signing a lot of talented young players. It was also a team sprinkled with some veterans at the sunset of their careers. It was the perfect opportunity for me because I knew advancement would be quick."
Monday went on to play 17 years with the A's, Cubs and Dodgers, reaching the World Series three times with Los Angeles before winning it in 1981. While there were some other solid players chosen in the first round of that first draft, there were no true superstars. Ray Fosse went to the Indians with the seventh pick; Jim Spencer went 11th to the Angels while Bernie Carbo was taken with the 16th pick by the Reds.
Gene Lamont was taken 13th by the Tigers and while he reached the Major Leagues as a player, his true success would come later as a manager and coach.
The real action began in the second round when Cincinnati tabbed catcher Johnny Bench, a future Hall of Famer and National League Most Valuable Player, with the 36th pick. Ken Holtzman was tabbed by the Cubs with the 61st pick while Graig Nettles went to the Twins with the 74th pick.
Future cornerstones of the great Royals teams of the Seventies, Amos Otis and Hal McRae, were both chosen, but by different teams. Otis was selected by the Red Sox with the 95th pick while the Reds grabbed McRae at 117. The A's also grabbed several players who would contribute to their early-Seventies dynasty, taking Sal Bando with the 119th pick followed by Gene Tenace with the 399th pick.
The most overlooked pick came at 226, though, when the Mets grabbed a hard-throwing right-hander from Alvin Community College named Nolan Ryan.
There were also several big-name players chosen who didn't sign and were subsequently picked by other teams. Tom Seaver was selected by the Dodgers at 190, but went back into the draft where he was chosen a year later in the first round by Atlanta. A rules infraction, however, led to a special selection for Seaver. The Mets drew his name from a hat and the rest is history.
Andy Messersmith, who would later become a free agency pioneer, was tabbed by the Tigers with the 53rd pick but didn't sign and was chosen a year later by the Angels in the first round. Baltimore also saw something in Carlton Fisk, taking him with the 758th pick. The future Hall of Famer didn't sign, though, and was grabbed by Boston in the January phase of the '67 draft.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.